Literary Reviews

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All reviews here are the opinion of the author of the review.  We welcome rebuttals to all interviews as we are always open to a different perspective.

Title:                             Canterbury Tales

Author:                         Geoffrey Chaucer

Date of Writing:           1380s (left unfinished and published posthumously)

Reviewer:                       Marjorie Montenegro

Response:                     "The Canterbury Tales" shovels opinions and morals down the throats of its readers through its coarse, yet entertaining, style.  Written in a language which could be appreciated by the common folk, The Canterbury Tales are truly the tales of the people.  Chaucer looks at his characters in the harsh light of reality insinuating their character through their physical descriptions and likes and dislikes.  He does not sermonize on their characters, yet manages to expose some as the hypocrites they are.  The prioress, although portrayed as a compassionate woman, is also portrayed as a hypocrite in her position by her love of the courtly virtues.  Through the Prioress tale we see her as an anti-Semite, which is in contrast with the portrayal of her as a woman of compassion.  Perhaps her only feelings of compassion are toward animals and small children.  To understand Chaucer's time is made much easier through the reading of these tales.


Title:                             "Aint I a Woman?"

Author:                           Sojourner Truth

Date of Publication:            19th C.

Reviewer:                       Marjorie Montenegro


Response:                        Sojourner Truth puts a nation on her knee and tells them a story, the story of being a woman.  Ms. Truth's no nonsense, down home wisdom speaks volumes more than the most over analyzed, over educated tomes of wisdom collecting dust on bookshelves all across academic America.  Sometimes, there is no room for grammar and syntax, only room for truth.  I was moved by Ms. Truth's eloquent and heartwarming speech and only wish to aspire to one day move others as she moved me.

Title:                             "What Time Of Night It Is"

Author:                          Sojourner Truth

Date of Publication:        19th C.

Reviewer:                         Marjorie Montenegro 

Response:                      I was puzzled by this speech by Sojourner Truth.  Somehow there seems to be no coherence and Ms. Truth appears to get lost on a tangent.  I am not a literary critic; however, unlike two of her previous writings, I was not impressed by the speech despite its making a few good points.  Although a cynic by nature, I found myself wondering if Ms. Truth's age might have caught up with her. 

Title:                             "Keeping the Things Going While Things Are Stirring"

Author:                          Sojourner Truth

Date of Publication:     1867

Reviewer:                       Marjorie Montenegro

Response:                   Sojourner Truth, speaking out against the emancipation of only one half of the black people in America, delivers common sense points that, unfortunately, for the most part, landed on deaf ears.  Ms. Truth's style of speaking does not attack, nor does it humble itself to the audience, it merely explains what should be obvious - women are people too.  I enjoyed looking at this speech and am charmed with Ms. Truth's style.

Title:                             "Intelligent Wickedness"

Author:                           William Lloyd Garrison

Date of Publication:            19th C.

Reviewer:                       Marjorie Montenegro

Response:                      The writing of William Lloyd Garrison is a hornet sting to the sensitive flesh of the 19th Century male.  His argument is sound, his wording concise, and his message clear.  This is an author after my own heart.  "Intelligent Wickedness" points the finger of blame and shakes it furiously in the face of ignorance.  Clearly, any class studying the womans movement should be familiarized with this writing.


Title:                             "Editorial from The North Star"

Author:                           Frederick Douglass

Date of Publication:            1848

Reviewer:                       Marjorie Montenegro

Response:                      Frederick Douglass uses biting sarcasm to force women's rights out of the dark and into the light.  He speaks not only with authority on the subject of oppression, but with an impassioned zeal that is impossible to ignore.  There are moments in his editorial that remind me of "Letter from Birmingham Jail" such as "A discussion of the rights of animals would be regarded with far more complacency by many of what are called the wise and the good of our land, than would be a discussion of the rights of women." 

            I also find that Douglass posits King's philosophy on what is a just government when he says, "government only is just which governs by the free consent of the governed, there can be no reason in the world for denying to woman, the exercise of the elective franchise, or a hand in making and administering the laws of the land."  Clearly Martin Luther King, Jr. was well versed in the writings of Frederick Douglass.


Title:                             "The Bedquilt"

Author:                          Dorothy Canfield Fisher

Date of Publication:            20 C.

Reviewer:                       Marjorie Montenegro

Response:                                  "The Bedquilt" is a charming story of finding self-appreciation in the unlikeliest places.  Sometimes, those things which we are most afraid of are the things which can bring us the greatest success.  Aunt Mehetabel lived a long life of planning, but never executing, a dream.  The bedquilt was more than just patchwork, it was the culmination of a lifetime of hope daintily held together with the invisible stitches of fear, disappointment, martyrdom, and pain.  This was more than just a story of self discovery, it was a story of success.  Forget "the Gipper" and let' give a big hand to Aunt Meheabel.

Title:                             Anonymous Was A Woman

Author:                          Mirra Bank

Date of Publication:            20 C.

Reviewer:                       Marjorie Montenegro

Response:                      Quilted together with common thread, the lives of the women glimpsed at in Anonymous Was A Woman scream of creation; however, not creation of life but creation of freedom using the few avenues of expression available.  The women themselves were the art which they sought so earnestly to produce, and this is evidenced in their pastel speech and charcoal lives.  When told to choose what piece within the book most interested me, I thought, "an easy task to undertake."  I planned to find a colorful character that would most attract a reader's attention and paint a portrait of her.  Now I find that task not so simple.  To take away from this book a single characterization, whether glossy or matte, would be to deconstruct the perfect quilt.  I do not choose to unravel what these women created; therefore, all I can say is that what I enjoy most about Anonymous Was A Woman is the ability that the chosen women have to blanket us with their lives and keep us warm even today.


Title:                             Excerpts from The Woman Warrior

Author:                          Maxine Hong Kingston

Date of Publication:            20th C.

Reviewer:                       Marjorie Montenegro

Response:                      I have always been enamored of Chinese folklore, and this was no exception.  I found the excerpts from The Woman Warrior charming and haunting.  Although charming is easy to come by, haunting is a much rarer commodity; therefore, I appreciate these excerpts and anticipate buying the book.


Title:                             "Why I Write"

Author:              Pearl Cleage

Date of Publication:            20th C.

Publisher:                       Unknown

Genre:                           Essay


Response:                      I sincerely hope that Ms. Cleage has gotten the help she so desperately needs.  This is not said in the spirit of sarcasm, such as anyone reading my writing might be accustomed to, but in the spirit of concern.  Ms. Cleage, a black female, apparently has been kept so busy "being black" that at 30+ years of age, she is only now coming to terms with being female.  This form of suppression, which may have occurred as a result of racial prejudice, has cause a delay in self-awareness; therefore, Ms. Cleage might benefit from joining a woman's group or engaging in group therapy.  As for the writing itself, of course a writer should use the word "I" but enough already.


Title:                             "The Yellow Wallpaper"

Author:                          Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Date of Publication:            1892

Reviewer:                       Marjorie Montenegro

Response:                      Like the women in the garden, and the shadows on the wall, slowly our narrator's empty world is filled with insanity.  Where the dark corners of her mind gather dust, the narrator seeks to fill them with all that is available, the yellow wallpaper.  What kind of world exists within the faded colors on the walls?  That is the question that envelops the once active mind of an isolated, dependant woman shut away from the light of day.  Proof positive of the expression, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."


Title:                             "Woman's Space"

Author:                          November Belford

Date of Publication:            20 C.

Reviewer:                       Marjorie Montenegro

Response:                      Who on earth hasn't experienced constant interruption syndrome?  I am personally plagued with recurring outbreaks of "can you" "do you know where" and the ever popular "I don't want to bother you but" yet look what we have here - my writing.  If the desire reins supreme, the interruptions will fall into line.  This poem says nothing new and has only interrupted me from reading something more worthwhile. 


Title:                             A Room of Ones Own

Author:                          Virginia Woolf

Date of Publication:            20 C.

Reviewer:                       Marjorie Montenegro

Response:                      Although this critique might be viewed as academic suicide, I shall plunge headfirst and hope that the branches of tolerance break my fall.  I do not like A Room of Ones Own.  I understand the concept of stylized writing, but the content of the book does nothing to draw in the reader.  Certainly, Woolf's mastery in writing should be applauded on its merit; however, I am not progressed far enough in my education to fully appreciate Woolf's subtleties.  There is nothing in A Room of One's Own that remains once the book is closed, although the pages are full of wonderful ideas.  The presentation of these ideas; however, are uninteresting and handled in a very preachy manner.  It is my opinion that such revolutionary ideas should have been shot forth from a canon rather than whispered in a library.


Title:                             The Diary of a Young Girl

Author:                          Anne Frank

Date of Publication:            1947

Reviewer:                       Marjorie Montenegro

Response:                      The Diary of a Young Girl is like a thief which sneaks into your heart and steals the last morsel of indifference.  The reader is lured through the window of her heart into the world of an optimistic young girl who could easily have been a daughter, niece or next-door neighbor.  Who among us has not at one time desired to know the secret thoughts of another?  It is that curiosity which compels the reader to turn the first few pages; however, it is the voice of Anne Frank that keeps the reader turning.  Through the author's conversations with her diary we can imagine what life was like during that turbulent period.  We are not assaulted with the brutal details which history books often graphically describe, but instead read the soft spoken sentiments of the human heart.  In many of the issues which touch her we see in the author a parallel to our own lives.  Speaking historically of an event, although providing information, does little to give us the same empathy as sharing secrets with just one person with whom we share a rapport.  To understand the Holocaust we need to understand the people who fell victim to it and The Diary of a Young Girl provides us with a clear, human understanding of the people who suffered, rather than the statistics.

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